WHS Legacy Wall adds faces

The five newest inductees into the Waterloo Legacy Society have been announced. 

During a ceremony at Waterloo High School set for Oct. 4, the faces of late former superintendent Wayne Collmeyer, Vickie Gardner (Class of 1967), Will Hesterberg (Class of 1969), Orlou Reitz (Class of 1944) and Ella Worden (Class of 1961) will be added to the WHS Legacy Wall.

Wayne M. Collmeyer

While never a student in the Waterloo schools, Collmeyer helped shape the future for current students during his time as Waterloo Superintendent of Schools from 1999-2005. 

Collmeyer was involved in the initial planning of the new Waterloo High School building during his tenure. The new high school was completed in time for the beginning of the 2009-10 school year.

After his time as superintendent, Collmeyer was involved in many area civic organizations. He took an active role in fundraising for not-for-profit organizations House of Neighborly Service, Life Network and Waterloo Rotary Club.

He was also board president for Camp Wartburg and church council president for Immanuel Lutheran Church in Waterloo in addition to being a board member for the Monroe County YMCA.

Collmeyer passed away on March 19, 2021. He is survived by wife Kathleen M. Collmeyer, children Andrea Kuergeleis, Matthew Collmeyer and Andrew (Mindy) Collmeyer, along with 12 grandchildren.

Vickie Luhr Gardner

Vickie Gardner graduated in the top 10 of the WHS Class of 1967. She was a four-year member of the WHS Pep Club, cheerleading team, band and choruses.  

She was also involved in student council, the yearbook staff and the Future Homemakers of America.

After high school, Gardner graduated with honors from the University of Illinois, earning her B.S. in child development and family life.

She was instrumental in starting Child’s World Preschool at St. Paul United Church of Christ in Waterloo. She served as teacher and director there from 1979-1991, also serving as the director of Christian education from 1991-96.

Also during her career she served as director of the Lessie Bates Neighborhood House Daycare Center in East St. Louis and was  also a caseworker for the Illinois Department of Public Aid in Monroe County.

Gardner’s community involvement includes leadership positions with the Morrison-Talbott Library Board of Trustees for over 25 years. She has also served on boards for Human Support Services, the Monroe County Nursing Home (Oak Hill), Monroe County Relay for Life, Uni-Pres Kindercottage Daycare Center in East St. Louis and Beck Learning Center  (Career Center of Southern Illinois).

She was also a member of a group in 1988 that researched and wrote articles for the book “A Cameo Collection of Historic Waterloo” compiled by Helen Rippelmeyer Richter.

Gardner married her high school sweetheart, Bill Gardner, and is the proud mother of Matthew and Steven Gardner and very proud grandmother of six.

“All of the things I have done in my life would not have been possible without the support and encouragement of my family, friends, and the teachers I have had in my life,” Gardner said.

L. William Hesterberg

Will Hesterberg graduated as valedictorian of the WHS Class of 1969. He was also president of the WHS National Honor Society and treasurer for both the Waterloo FFA Chapter and school science club.

In 1973, Hesterberg earned a Bachelor of Arts in international development economics from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. In 1976, he earned Master of Divinity and Master of Theology degrees from Covenant Seminary in Creve Coeur, Mo.

In addition to his 45 years pastoring in two churches, Hesterberg spent many years as an international teacher at seminaries, including time as president of Grace Reformed Institute of Theology, India.

Hesterberg served as visiting instructor at the Baltic Reformed Theological Seminary, Latvia; Kiev Regional Bible College, Ukraine; Maranatha Bible College, Romania; All Nations College, Kenya; Seminario Reformada Latinoamericano, Bolivia; also instructing in Belize, Russia, Indonesia and the Phillipines. 

He is currently board chairman for Monroe County Christian School and has authored the book “Let Grace Begin.”

Hesterberg has also served as treasurer and vice president for the Monroe County Nursing Home (Oak Hill) Endowment Association and began the Help Network of Waterloo.

He is the husband of Lori Purcell Hesterberg and has two grown children, Anna and Barton.

Orlou Reitz

Orlou Reitz graduated with the WHS Class of 1944. During high school, she was secretary of the junior class and president of the senior class and was involved in glee club, orchestra, Hi-Tri, pep club, yearbook and the library.

After high school, Reitz graduated from Northern Illinois College of Optometry in April 1947.

She taught physical education at Ss. Peter & Paul High School (now Gibault) in Waterloo while waiting for issuance of her professional license to practice optometry.

When she was officially licenced, Reitz became the first optometrist to practice in Waterloo in a small trailer on North Market Street. In 1965, she relocated her office to a wing of her home on East Mill Street and she practiced there until retiring in 1987.

She made two trips to Guatemala in 1985 and 1986 with the Volunteer Optometrists in Service to Humanity to provide eye exams and eye care to the indigenous people who lived there. 

Reitz joined the Peace Corps in 1987 with her second husband and was assigned to Malawi, Africa for a two-year mission.

Reitz was recently honored with a spot in the Monroe County History Museum. 

She and her second husband, Bob Burkemper, spent the next 20 years volunteering with the National Park Service, most of the time as campground hosts in several states including Texas, Utah, Nevada, North Carolina, and Glacier National Park, Montana—riding over 30,000 miles on their 10-speed mountain bikes

Reitz, a devout Catholic, would sometimes have to travel 30 miles or more to attend Mass at a nearby church—one time on a Native American reservation.

Reitz is one of 10 children born to Frederick and Leora Reitz. She and her first husband, Glenn Raeber, raised 11 children. He passed away in 1977.

Noting that she had traveled to every state and some foreign countries, Orlou said, “I’ve had a good life.”

Ella Weitkamp Worden

Ella Worden graduated fourth in the WHS Class of 1961. She was involved in a number of clubs and activities, including the Future Homemakers of America, Junior Red Cross Council, band, yearbook and Hi-Tri.

After high school, Worden earned a degree in computer science from Southern Illinois University Club in 1965, after which she completed a TRW Systems aerospace internship that summer. 

In 1974, she completed her master’s thesis, “The Assignment of Enlisted Naval Personnel to Positions Using Linear Programming Techniques,” becoming one of the first women to graduate with a master’s degree in computer science.

From 1966-1983, she was a scientific programmer for TRW Systems Aerospace in California. For a time with TRW, she was the only professional female on an initial team of more than 30 individuals who worked to install the joint U.S./Australia government aerospace tracking system in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia. 

Worden was assigned to the U.S. Department of the Navy during this time. She worked during the Apollo and space shuttle missions, with her work still being used today and remaining classified. 

From 1973-75, she had a special assignment to work with Katherine Johnson, whose professional career was featured in the movie “Hidden Figures.”

She had a desire to see the world and was offered the opportunity while she was stationed in Australia. TRW allowed its staff to return to the states once each year and could circumnavigate the globe in either direction to come back home. 

She traveled with her husband, William Worden, a research programmer for TRW systems, who worked on the heat shield for Apollo 13. 

Worden died on Aug. 16, 1983, at the age of 39.

Also during the upcoming Waterloo Legacy Society ceremony, 2020 inductees will be honored. The ceremony for that year was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

No new members were selected in 2021.

Honorees for 2020 are Rev. Mary Schaller Blaufuss, Andrew Frierdich, Kenneth Hartman Jr., Emilie Eggemeyer Land and Robert H. Voris. 

The ceremony begins at 6 p.m. Oct. 4 at Waterloo High School, 505 E. Bulldog Boulevard.

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